BY SARAH R. GREGORY
Officials at Greeneville Town Hall report receiving a number of questions -- primarily from business-owners -- about proposed revisions to the town's sign ordinance that were discussed during the past two meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
A memo from Building Official Jeff Woods outlining the changes was recently sent to members of the board in an attempt to clarify what the revisions are.
"The reason we decided to update the Sign Ordinance was because of all the requests from businesses who wanted to advertise more," Woods said.
"We thought this would be a good time, while the economy is so tough, to change the Sign Ordinance to help our local businesses."
The proposed changes "allow the town's local businesses to advertise on-premises, as so many have requested," Woods wrote.
During the last two meetings of the board, there has been "some confusion on what the Building Department is proposing in the revised sign ordinance," Woods said in the memo outlining his suggested additions, as well as language pertaining to auction signs that the town's attorney recommended removing.
The town's existing sign ordinance does not allow for placement of temporary on-premises signs or any off-premises signs.
Under the existing ordinance only three types of signs are allowed:
* banners that are fastened and secured to the building;
* wall-mounted signs; and,
* approved signage at the street.
Woods' new proposal, he said, is "more business-friendly and allows businesses to advertise more with signs on-premises."
TEMPORARY SIGN PROPOSAL
Under the new proposal, businesses would be allowed to place two temporary signs on-premises for up to 120 days.
Stipulations include limiting days of display into 15 separate days and eight occurrences, and each sign may not exceed six square-feet in size. A permit fee of $25 would apply to each sign.
The new proposal would permit on-premises banners to be placed at the street for up to 120 days per year, provided their fastener system meets the town's building codes.
The existing sign ordinance allows banners to be fastened only to buildings and not at the street.
The proposed permit fee for such banners is $50.
Under the existing ordinance, extra signage in windows is not allowed if a building's total signage square-foot requirements have been met.
Under the proposed changes, temporary window signs of up to 12 feet would be allowed without permits.
Window signs exceeding 12 square-feet would count toward total square footage allowed per building.
PYLON SIGNAGE INCREASE
Certain business zonings could see an increase in the allowed size of signs placed at the street under the new proposal.
Properties located in zones B-4, M-1 and M-2 would be allowed 200 square-feet per side on their signs as opposed to the current limit of 100 square-feet per side.
Woods' memo notes that multi-tenant buildings would be allowed up to two pylon signs under the new ordinance.
The existing ordinance allows only one pylon sign at the street. The new proposal would allow for two, if the building has signage square footage available under zoning requirements.
LED SIGNS PERMITTED
Adopting the new ordinance would allow LED-lighted signs to be used by businesses, provided they meet the state's requirements for brightness.
The existing sign ordinance does not permit LED signs.
The proposed ordinance would not require permits for awning signs with an area of six square-feet or less.
The existing ordinance counts awning signs as part of the total square footage a building is allowed. The new ordinance does not count awning signs toward the total allowed unless they exceed six square-feet.
Under the existing ordinance and the new proposal, any sign requires an application to be filled out and approved before installation. Signs installed without the proper permit are subject to citations and fines.
Another addition to the proposed sign ordinance is a section pertaining to special-event signs.
The ordinance would give the Board of Mayor and Aldermen the authority to approve any special event signs placed within the town.
Portable signs meeting state requirements and the town's building code could be placed after approval by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, provided that they are at least 20 feet from all property lines and not displayed for more than 16 days.
Specia-event signs would not be allowed in public right-of-ways, unless approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Special-event signs not approved by the board would be subject to penalties.
AUCTION SIGN REMOVAL
Only one section of the existing ordinance has been recommended for removal.
According to the memo sent to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the town's attorney recommends removing section 110.4, which pertains to auction signs.
Under the existing ordinance, signs advertising auctions are permitted in a public right-of-way, provided that the following requirements are met:
* an annual permit costing $100 per year is obtained and placed on the bottom, right-hand corner of each sign;
* signs are not located within 20 feet of the intersection of two public streets;
* signs do not interfere with driver or pedestrian sight distance;
* signs are not permitted within the right-of-way of state highways or in the Greeneville Historic District; and,
* signs do not exceed 24 square-feet in area per side and five feet in height.
The town has the authority to revoke the sign permit if two or more signs must be removed in a calendar year for improper placement.
During the last meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, held Jan.10, Woods said the town's attorney indicated the town could face liability issues related to the placement of auction signs in public right-of-ways.
At that time, City Administrator Todd Smith said that he agreed with the attorney's assessment of potential legal liabilities.
Smith also said the auction sign clause contradicts other parts of the existing ordinance prohibiting placement of off-premises signs.
Additionally, Smith noted, granting special provisions only for auction companies means the town "has automatically discriminated against every other business in the Greeneville community."
Other businesses, such as retail stores and restaurants, Smith noted, are not allowed to post any off-premise signs.
AWAITING FINAL APPROVAL
The proposed new ordinance has already passed on first reading, having been considered after a public hearing as required by state law.
However, during the Jan. 10 meeting, aldermen delayed taking action on the second and final reading that would put the new ordinance into effect.
Instead, the group voted unanimously to table the matter and vote at a future meeting when the town's attorney can be present to address legal questions surrounding the liability and discrimination issues.
An agenda for the board's next meeting has not yet been set, but that discussion and action on the matter could come during a regularly scheduled 4 p.m. meeting on Tuesday in the G. Thomas Love Boardroom at Greeneville Light & Power System headquarters.